Paul McCartney tells Billboard that "I Want to Hold You hand" was the Beatles record that "allowed us to come to America"

By Char Adams
November 12, 2015 04:45 PM

At 73 years old and one of only two surviving members of the Beatles, Paul McCartney has some stories to tell – including about the origins of some of the band’s now-legendary hits, especially “Help!”

The 1965 No. 1 single was band-mate John Lennon‘s literal cry for help amid an unhappy marriage and drug addition, McCartney told Billboard magazine in an interview after the Beatles were named the top all-time band on the Billboard 200.

“Lennon later said, ‘I was fat and depressed, and I was crying out for help,’ ” McCartney said of his former band mate. “But looking back on it, John was always looking for help. He had [a paranoia] that people died when he was around I think John’s whole life was a cry for help.”

Paul McCartney
C Flanigan/FilmMagic

‘Help!’ came 18 months after the band’s burst onto the U.S. music scene. McCartney recalled the Beatles’s earliest hits, noting that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the record “that allowed us to come to America.”

“I’d said to [our manager], ‘We don’t want to go to America until we have a No. 1 record,’ ” he said.

“A lot of British artists went there and came back with the audience having been slightly underwhelmed by them. I said, ‘We don’t want to be like that. If we go, we want to go on top.’ ”

And so they did.

The Beatles in 1964
Courtesy Gunther/MPTV

The iconic band boasts an impressive track record on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart: 34 top 10 hits, 50 songs in the top 40 and the most No. 1s in a calendar year, Billboard reports.

However, with success comes criticism. And for the group, some scrutiny came from their 1968 mega-hit “Hey Jude.”

“I hadn’t realized ‘Jude’ means ‘Jew’ [in German],” McCartney said. “That caused some confusion, and a man got quite angry with me over that.”

The man, after seeing “HEY JUDE” painted on a boutique window in London, mistook it for anti-Semitic graffiti and smashed the glass with a soda siphon.

The group released their debut single “Love Me Do” more than 50 years ago. Andy White, who once played the drums on the hit, died this week at the age of 85.